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Papers of Sir Edward Charles Frederick Garraway


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Through the generosity of Sir Edward's daughters, Mrs. McFall and Mrs. Stubbs, we have acquired a continuous record of their father's working life in South Africa from 1888-1926, in the shape of very full diaries, weekly letters to his parents in Ireland, and other correspondence and papers. Perhaps the most remarkable item is the leather pocket diary which "Pa" Garraway, then a surgeon in the Bechuanaland Border Police (B.P.P.), carried on his person during the First Matabele War, and also when he accompanied Jameson on the Raid into the Transvaal and was made prisoner. This diary, stamped 1894, contains first-hand contemporary accounts of both expeditions. The pencilled Matabeleland jottings are supplemented by a fuller record written up regularly in another volume and enlivened by a handwritten menu for the St Patrick's Day Dinner at Inyati in 1894, set out in humorous terms and illustrated by a lively drawing entitled "Loben's Wake". (The artist, Corporal Nangle, who contributed sketches of B.B.P. life to the Graphic, was subsequently eaten by lions.) The Jameson Raid journal, written in ink between a miscellany of personal notes in the diary's blank pages, was at times kept up daily, at other times brought up to date when circumstances permitted. Unlike the papers in Bobby White's trommel, it escaped confiscation by the Boers, who did not imprison Garraway with the other officers, but permitted him to remain with, and doctor, the men. It breaks off when the Harlech Castle, carrying the bulk of the Raiders, reached England on January 31, 1896.

The early letters and diaries in particular are extremely detailed and their contents overlap to such an extent that it seemed best to list them summarily, with a related itinerary and alphabetical lists of persons mentioned, and to attempt, in the biographical history, to indicate briefly the sort of thing that can be looked for at different stages of Garraway's life. With very few exceptions all the letters surviving from the period 1888-1903 were addressed to his parents, and the diaries, too, were sent home, so that, although they are listed separately, repetition could be avoided by treating them together when attempting to describe their subject-matter. Any such attempt is bound to be selective when dealing with material so diffuse.

After a home leave in 1903 the sequence of letters to his parents appears to have been interrupted, and the growth of his administrative and social involvements is reflected in the diaries, which although regularly kept became a briefer, more personal record of his daily life, and do not appear to have been sent home to his parents. There is a marked contrast with the early letters and diaries, which had been both an emotional outlet and a link with home compensating for exile in isolated and occasionally uncongenial surroundings. After his marriage in 1905 the family letters were augmented by letters to his wife: some pages have been extracted from these but there are notes indicating their contents. After his mother's death in 1909 fewer letters home appear to have been kept, and home leaves interrupted the sequence, except in the last year of his father's life (1916), from which weekly letters have survived.

From 1908 the diaries increasingly reflect Garraway's move into Government House circles, and with his appointment as Resident Commissioner to Bechuanaland in 1916 the discretion imposed on an administrator inhibits his entries. When the sequence of family letters ends, much of the early spontaneity vanishes, though on trips north the old Garraway comes back to life.

By contrast to the summary listing of the earlier letters and diaries, the detailed listing necessary when dealing with the letters from a wide and often impressive range of correspondents in volumes 10-12 makes the contents of these volumes seem disproportionately important. Many of the letters are concerned with Garrwaway's career prospects and pension rights, and, after his retirement, with social engagements and reminiscences of past shared experiences, though the letters from Selborne, Gladstone, Buxton and Athlone contain comments on South African and Irish affairs, and those from Charles Rey on Bechuanaland supply much detail.


  • Creation: 1888-1932


3.0 Linear metres (7 boxes, 12 volumes)

Language of Materials

  • English

English, Sesuto

Preferred Citation

Oxford, Bodleian Libraries [followed by shelfmark and folio or page reference, e.g. MSS. Afr. s. 1610 vol. 12, fol. 32].

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Full range of shelfmarks:

MSS. Afr. s. 1610 boxes 1-7, vols. 1-12

Collection ID (for staff)

CMD ID 1959


Correspondence, diaries and papers of Sir Edward Charles Frederick Garraway (1865-1932) a surgeon and colonial official in Southern Africa, 1888-1932.

Biographical / Historical

The eldest son of Colonel and Mrs. C.S. Garraway, Rockshire, County Waterford, Edward Garraway studied medicine at Trinity College and the Adelaide Hospital, Dublin, where he obtained the Diploma of the Royal College of Surgeons but did not proceed to the medical diploma. In 1888 he began his African career as assistant to Dr. Gorman [O'Gorman], an Irish doctor at the Knysna, and, in the capacity of Assistant District Surgeon, was based mainly at Millwood, a mining camp in the Outeniques. In December 1890 he was appointed District Surgeon at Kuruman, a new post, not well paid, which he accepted partly because Gorman was giving up his practice, but mainly because he felt that opportunity lay in the North, in particular Bechuanaland, "the rising country" (28 Feb 1890).

In December 1891, feeling that Kuruman led nowhere, he accepted the offer of a half-share (with no premium) in a practice at Edenburg, Orange Free State, owned by a Dr. Lavers, who intended to open a branch surgery at Jagersfontein Road, a station and projected township on the main Bloemfontein line. Garraway's hesitations over embarking on private practice soon proved justified, and in July 1892, after a locum at Heilbron, he was glad to re-enter Imperial employment as Surgeon to the Bechuanaland Border Police (B.P.P.).

From August 1892 he was stationed at Fort Gaberones, in the Southern Protectorate, but in September 1893, after trouble broke out between the Matabele and the Chartered Company, was ordered up to Macloutsie (sic) and placed in charge of field medical services for the advance expeditionary force of 200 which, under the command of Colonel Hamilton Goold-Adams, joined Jameson at Bulawayo in late November. Even in laager, "standing to" regularly at 4 a.m., Garraway kept up his diaries, which, with his letters home (all of which, remarkably, got through) record the force's progress via Tati, where they picked up Selous and Khama, with 2000 men; the accidental shooting of Lobengula's emissaries; and the long-awaited Matabele attack, beaten off by Maxim guns to which, rather than their commanding officer's tactics, Garraway felt they owed their survival. They record, too, the mopping-up operations which dragged on for months in an atmosphere of uncertainty, with relationships between the Company and the B.B.P. deteriorating as the latter felt increasingly exploited, while the trial of two troopers for concealing gold sent by Lobengula as a peace-offering increased the tension. On the lighter side, they show the sportsmen busy from early on in the campaign, apparently unmolested by the Matabele, who "seem to have been under some spell" (10 Feb) except after Shangani, when Garraway found them "rather cheeky". By November Garraway, although nursing James Fairbairn among other seriously ill patients, was shooting and fishing when he could, and by February his brother-officers were sending home for hounds. Events like these, not least the St. Patrick's Day Dinner at Inyati, strike an oddly relaxed note. There are glimpses of Bulawayo, a place Garraway did not care for; of Inyati, Hope Fountain, and the returning missionaries. Garraway's predisposition to be critical of "these gentry" was modified, as so often, when he actually met them, though his attitude to missionaries, Africans and the Chartered Company, tended always to swing with circumstances and his mood.

The phased withdrawal of the B.B.P. was virtually completed by May, and in early June Garraway was back at Macloutsie with "E" Troop, hoping for home leave after the senior medical officer, Vigne. But by September 1895, when he at last received permission from Mafeking (now headquarters) to apply, he had been overtaken by events, and when he did reach England in late May 1896, it was as a repatriated prisoner-of-war in the Harlech Castle.

The run-up to the Jameson Raid shows very clearly in the letters and diaries from July 1895, though as late as October Garraway was still inclined to interpret the warlike preparations he witnessed from his vantage point at Macloutsie as a move on the Company's part to take over the Protectorate prematurely. He does not seem to have made the connection between these preparations and the rumours of unrest in Johannesburg he had reported as early as August 1894. Insecurity about the future of Bechuanaland and the B.B.P. dominates the entries from April 1895 following the reappointment as Governor of Sir Hercules Robinson, whom Garraway regarded as hand-in-glove with Rhodes; and the report on July 1 that Jameson was in Cape Town negotiating the future of the Protectorate seemed to confirm his fears.

What seemed like an official policy of progressive reduction culminated on November 14 in a telegram from Mafeking conveying the Secretary of State's decision that "owing to the political changes in the country...the necessity for maintaining the B.B.P. no longer exists" and requesting a list of officers willing to transfer to the Company's service. It is against this background of insecurity about future employment that Garraway's decision, after a rather cheerless Christmas in Mafeking, to throw in his lot with the friends who had already transferred should be seen. "I was not for it at all at first, but they have talked me over, and after all it was 'Hobson's Choice' for me" (26 Dec). He would have preferred to join the native police corps being formed for the Protectorate had there been a vacancy for a surgeon, but could not resist the blandishments of his brother-officers and the "bigwigs", in particular Jameson, despite his distrust of anyone connected with the Company. He seems still, at this late stage, to have been hoping that a meeting with his old chief, Goold-Adams, arriving on business connected with the Barotseland Boundary Commission, would change his course, but was disappointed. Circumstances, and "good friends", had drawn him into a situation where he had no alternative but to embark on a venture the nature of which he could only guess at: "We have got orders to march at 8 p.m." he wrote on December 29, "and I suppose it is the Transvaal. Please God we'll get out as well as we did in Matabeleland. I haven't the faintest idea of our destination, everything is a mystery".

When Garraway left Mafeking at short notice on December 29 he had with him the pocket-diary he had carried during the Matabele War and on occasional expeditions from Macloutsie. In blank pages, among a miscellany of personal notes, he kept a day-to-day account of his experiences when he could, and when circumstances prevented this, wrote them up as soon as possible afterwards. There are daily entries until January 1, after which the column was engaged by Boer commandoes, forced to surrender and taken prisoner. Internal evidence suggests that Garraway's first opportunity to bring his journal up to date was after boarding the Harlech Castle on January 26, though it is possible that some entries may have been made when interned at Pretoria (4-11 Jan) or subsequently at Volksrust (12-25 Jan). Once on board ship there are fairly regular jottings, and also a more continuous narrative, interrupted by an outbreak of typhoid which kept him busy professionally.

Through the diary, supplemented by the slightly expanded extracts published by Pulteney Bigelow in Harper's New Monthly Magazine (Nov 1896), a copy of which has been added to the collection, it is possible to follow the progress of "G" and "K" Troops, with Colonel Grey, Major Coventry, Captains Monro and Gosling, Lieutenants McQueen, Wood and Hore, to their rendezvous with the British South Africa Company force near Malmani on the 30th, their first encounter with Boer forces on the 31st, the action near Krugersdorp (1-3) Jan, and through their surrender, imprisonment and repatriation. Garraway's reservations about the programme and timing are clear from the start. From an account given to Bigelow by a member of the opposing Boer forces, which rounds out Garraway's account of the fighting, come criticisms of the English leadership not made openly by Garraway, though later entries reveal bitterness towards the Whites, Willoughby and Jameson, and concern for the friends whose careers had suffered from being led into an enterprise in which, as he confessed to Bigelow, "we were nothing but pirates, and richly deserved hanging".

Garraway does not dwell on the ordeal reserved for him after the surrender when, despite his exhaustion, he dealt with the wounded, and later the dead, stressing instead the support received from volunteer helpers: "Nothing could exceed the kindness of the people, both Dutch and English". From his account their captors seem, with some understandable exceptions, to have treated them remarkably well. For Garraway the worst part seems to have been the worry and uncertainty about his future while in a state of enforced inactivity. Only two scraps of letters survive from this period and no details are given of the enquiry conducted on board the Harlech Castle by officials picked up at Madeira (17 Feb): nor is there any explanation among his papers of how he escaped being tried for his part in the Raid, though he cannot have been regarded as a principal. At home on the leave to which he had looked forward for so long, he seems to have been dogged by tension, which did not ease until he was back in Bechuanaland: "I think it must have been the reaction, when I was at home, after so many anxiety and worry, as I had in the Transvaal" (17 Jun).

Garraway cut his leave short because of the Matabele Rebellion, and on reaching Mafeking was ordered straight up to Bulawayo by the Company. But friends were working to get him back to what was left of the B.B.P. in its guise as the Protectorate Police, and he was pulled off the coach at Tati. From May 1896 he alternated between Mafeking, Gaberones and Palapye, where he spent six months from August 1897, until in February he was posted to Macloutsie, now in decline, and, so far as news of impending trouble with the Transvaal was concerned, something of a backwater, though his letters home are increasingly preoccupied with it. At the outbreak of the Boer War he was cut off, with a handful of troopers, from the main body of his troop, which had been withdrawn to defend Mafeking. This frustrating period was spent in organising field medical services, based on an improvised hospital at Magalapye Station, for the troops assembling in the Northern Protectorate, until he was able to go into action with the column which, under Plumer's command, assisted in the relief of Mafeking.

After some time pursuing guerilla commandoes in the Transvaal he was gazetted D.M.O. in Baden-Powell's South African Constabulary and entrusted with the task of setting up a new hospital at Sydenham, near Bloemfontein, ending the war as P.M.O. in Johannesburg. Soon after his marriage in 1905 the South Africa Company was disbanded and he was taken on as Military Secretary by Lord Selborne, and subsequently by Herbert Gladstone. The move from medicine to administration was assisted by service on the Southern Rhodesian Native Reserves Commission (1914-1915). In 1916 he was appointed Resident Commissioner for Bechuanaland and at the end of 1917 succeeded Robert Coryndon as Resident Commissioner for Basutoland.

Temperamentally Garraway seems to have suited the Basutos, who had been restless under Coryndon; and although he would have liked further promotion, Basutoland suited his love of horses and the outdoor life. During these years at Maseru he acted as host to many notable people drawn to him both by a shared interest in this life and by his personal qualities. He seems to have possessed the gift of infusing warmth and informality into official relationships, and to have been an ideal companion on outdoor expeditions. After his first trip North with Selborne in 1906, organising hunting and fishing trips for V.I.P.s became something of a speciality, and with the Buxtons and Athlones in particular the basis of a real intimacy. "I am amused but not surprised", wrote Selborne in 1921, "to learn that you have developed into a sort of hereditary Grand Hunstman to the Governor-General". While he kept in touch with his earlier chiefs - Goold-Adams, Baden-Powerll, Milner, Selborne and Gladstone - other correspondents during this period include the Connaughts and the Buxtons, Athlone (who when Prince of Teck had slept on the floor of Garraway's hut while on service with the 7th Hussars), Mrs Botha, Jan Smuts, "dear old Khama", Sekgoma, Frances Balfour, Dougal Malcolm, Wilson Fox, Weston-Jarvis, Julian Amery and Admiral Halsey, who had accompanied the Prince of Wales on a visit to Basutoland in 1925. The Maseru letters and diaries are consequently of more than local interest, though they also provide a valuable source for historians of the Protectorate and the personalities at work there until Sir Edward's retirement in 1926.

In order to keep this outline of a long and varied career as straightforward as possible it was necessary to exclude any reference to the wealth of detail, in the earlier letters and diaries in particular, about the successive communities in which Garraway lived. These communities, and the people he met there, are seen through his eyes as they influenced his development and shaped his future. At Millwood Garraway learnt to cope on his own with medical emergencies in a difficult terrain and climate, and from his occasional forays into Knysna's social life acquired a distrust of the small-town mentality which increased his preference for the outdoors; the letters and diaries written between 1889 and 1891 preserve the atmosphere of the run-down mining camp and the little seaside town and bring their inhabitants to life.

Between March and December 1891 Garraway provides an intimate glimpse of Kuruman, notably of the Price family, with whom he lived on close terms, his respect for Roger Price and the superior education and charms of the Misses Price overcoming the prejudices against missionaries aired frequently for his mother's benefit. From the storekeeper, Chapman, "a very kindred spirit of man, although an Afrikander" (7 Sep 1891) he acquired the basic skills of veldcraft, the art of survival in a countryside where the hazards were different to those of Knysna, and a lifelong love of big-game hunting. At the same time he added some Sechuana to his elementary knowledge of the taal he had begun to acquire through his patients. He also acquired a marked distrust of the Chartered Company and of Rhodes in particular (in his early years in Africa he was sometimes a sounding-board for the opinions of those round him).

In contrast to his time at Kuruman, Garraway's six months in the Orange Free State were not a happy time for him: apart from his difficulties with his partner, society at Edenburg proved uncongenial and his description of the life there is in consequence not free from prejudice. He was happier at Jagersfontein Road, liking the farmers, the opportunities for outdoor life and the contact with passing travellers. Back in Edenburg he reacted impatiently against the intrigues of local factions, deciding that he was unfit by nature for private practice in a town, and retreating with relief to the B.B.P.

Garraway was in his element in the B.B.P., with plenty of riding, shooting and fishing, the kind of professional work that suited him, and above all congenial company: the friendships he made during this period were to last all his life and influence its course. The letters and diaries of this period, though at times resembling articles in the Field, are important for much more than his personal life, providing a great deal of information about the organisation of the force, biographical details about officers and men, and a day-to-day account of life at the various stations. Those written at Gaberones between August 1892 and September 1893 describe the camp and its outstations, its personnel, domestic life and pastimes, the handful of neighbouring civilians and missionaries, the visitors passing through, and events in the Southern Protectorate before the First Matabele War.

Following the excitements of that campaign, a clear picture emerges of life in the dwindling community at Macloutsie, occasionally augmented by travellers passing through to Rhodes's Drift, but cut off from Tati when the post was re-routed via Bulawayo. At certain seasons Macloutsie, once headquarters, had its comforts, but the withdrawal of the nursing sisters from the hospital in August 1895 meant more work for Garraway, on whom heat and fever had had their effect, while the reorganisation and reduction of the Police made this an unsettling period, brought to an end abruptly by the Jameson Raid. After the Raid there are letters from Mafeking, Gaberones, Palapye and Macloutsie, the Palapye phase being of particular interest, as Garraway came to know Khama, the African village and the small European community, including the Ashburnham family and the missionaries, and entertained Lugard on his way out from Ngami, while the railway brought many visitors, including Milner, to Palapye siding. Conditions of life in Bechuanaland had, as Garraway commented, changed greatly since the coming of the railway.

Following the relief of Mafeking and Garraway's transfer to the South Africa Company, the Bloemfontein diaries, like the Mafeking ones earlier, resurrect the social life of a garrison town at that period - a life Garraway professed not to care for but with which he became increasingly involved. After his marriage in 1905, with his promotion to P.M.O. and subsequent Government House appointment, city life claimed him. With occasional escapes on official tours or hunting-trips, the diaries record a domestic and social life spent mainly in official circles in Johannesburg and Cape Town, until after a period of unemployment at home in Ireland he returned to Rhodesia with the Native Reserves Commission, spending some time in Bulawayo and Salisbury and some on tour with the Commission, whose members included Coryndon. Following his appointment as District Commissioner for Bechuanaland and subsequently Basutoland the discretion increasingly evident in the diaries gains the upper hand and they lack the power of the youthful diaries to bring people, places and events to life. This quality in the earlier letters and diaries, coupled with their author's propensity for being in key places at key times between 1890 and 1900, makes them of outstanding interest.

J.C. Williams, 1978

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Donated to the Bodleian Library by Sir Edward Garraway's daughters in 1977.

Papers of Sir Edward Charles Frederick Garraway
Finding aid prepared by J.C. Williams
1979; EAD version 2020
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the Bodleian Libraries Repository

Weston Library
Broad Street
Oxford OX1 3BG United Kingdom